Solid. Not exceptional but good enough. Lots of staff and responsive service. Huge menu. Faint smell of gas/butane in the air. Not “this restaurant’s gonna blow” level of smell, but “you gotta get that checked out” kind of smell. Read on for the deets on this quick little dinner!
Cuban food is pretty hard to find in Vancouver. I haven’t tried Havana on Commercial Drive, but since it’s been taken over by Postmark/Belgard Kitchen/Vancouver Urban Winery group, I’m not sure what’s to come of it. I always thought it might be the Cuban equivalent of The Reef — a smoothed-out, shaved-off mainstream rendition of “ethnic” food. The Las Margaritas of Cuban restaurants, if you will. Well, there’s an actual hole-in-the-wall, homey Cuban restaurant on Commercial Drive now called Varadero Cafe. It’s been open since July 2017 and word-of-mouth has been promising. Moyenchow and I checked it out. If you’re into the starch-heavy, laidback seasoning that’s typical of Cuban cuisine, you’ll like this place. This small initial visit is positive.
The food at Kabsa House on Robson St. has a lot of similarities with local Persian restaurants like Zeitoon and Cazba (of which “Kabsa” is a near anagram of). There’s a focus on rice and kabobs (skewers), but with the addition of rotisserie chicken and a few other Saudi Arabian/Gulf touches. Food was generally good, but slightly higher prices and slightly smaller serving sizes means not quite enough reason to choose this place over other more established places (some of which have killer daily specials that offer even more value), unless you’re in the area or have a hankering for their moist, well-seasoned rotisserie chicken.
Ramen Taka (full name “Ramen Takanotsume”) has taken over the old Ramenman spot on Bidwell near Robson. The new owners used to run the much-loved quality sushi bowl takeout restaurant Kyzock (née Sushi Zero One — Instagram posts here, here, here, here, here, here, and goodbye post here). So they’ve switched from sushi dons to ramen. How’d they do? Pretty good! Deserves another visit. Now the details:
Assembly Chef’s Hall is like what Bourdain Market was supposed to be if it ever got off the ground, except instead of overseas hawkers, Toronto’s chefs have set up shop with smaller, fast casual versions of their larger restaurants and other concepts. It’s a food court that doesn’t suck! And it contains the ONLY stand-up sushi bar in Canada. EVERYONE I spoke to said I was foolish for wanting to eat sushi in Toronto when Vancouver already has the best sushi in Canada (and for much cheaper). But my stubborn self always has to experience it first-hand. I’m always willing to test a theory to see the results myself. And the result is that Tachi does some kick-ass sushi that’s easily as good as the mid/high range of sushi in Vancouver, all for a surprisingly reasonable price too.
Spurned on by the new David Chang Netflix series “Ugly Delicious”, I went on a quest to find the best sheng jian bao (aka SJB). Everyone knows XLB (xiao long bao), the soup-filled steamed pork dumplings that Din Tai Fung made famous worldwide, but these fried versions (often using a leaven yeasted dough) are an underappreciated creature. And frying anything makes it better, right?
With some input from my passionate Instagram followers, I made a list of four places to try:
- Shanghai Dimsum House Ltd. (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
- Shanghai Fortune Cuisine (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
- Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant (Richmond)
- R&H Chinese Food (Lansdowne Centre, Richmond)
I could easily add many more places to this list (e.g. Wang’s Shanghai in Vancouver) but I’m just one guy with a day job (not this) so if I forgot your favourite place, just leave a comment and I’ll consider it for next time(?)!
[ UPDATE – MAY 22, 2018: Looks like this entire chain has imploded. Must’ve spread themselves way too thin with so many locations and spinoffs. Hope everyone involved lands on their feet with more well-received ventures in the future. ]
I never tried the old menu at Bao Down Snack Bar. I guess I was waiting for word-of-mouth to get better before trying it. When a prominent local blogger gives a middling 3.5 beakers out of 5, that’s not exactly a reason to rush out and try it. Now Bao Down Snack Bar have a totally new menu and I can only imagine what their first round of nu-Filipino food was like. Maybe it’s unfair for me to make them the torchbearer of modern Filipino food…
Going by what a friend and I tried during a Friday happy hour, the new menu has morphed into a pan-Asian/Mexican pub food thing where the Filipino spirit got buried by trend-driven blandness.
There was lots of Kanye on the sound system.
Wicca needed a pick-me-up, and her favourite cuisine is Singaporean/Malaysian food, so I picked this small place called Makan Place (Facebook, Instagram) in Burnaby that’s been on my radar. Hope the bold, punchy flavours will cheer her up!
If my dad wasn’t given a $100 gift certificate to Bandao Pearl (part of the Peninsula group), we never would have set foot in this high-end Chinese seafood restaurant. (My dad got the gift certificate from a friend who didn’t want to use it. One look at the prices on the menu and we could see why!) The food itself was no better or worse than what you can find at much cheaper mid-range Chinese restaurants around town. This place caters to the rich who want to show off. Period.
The old Efendi Uyghur at 1345 Kingsway (near Knight) was only open for about a year but received great feedback (like this Alexandra Gill review). Unfortunately, they had to close the restaurant due to the mother’s health issues. The space got sold and turned into House of Dosas nemesis, Dosa Factory. I didn’t get a chance to check out Efendi the first time, but thanks to “el lobo solo” on Chowhound, I learned that it’s back in a new, smaller location further east at 3490 Kingsway (same tiny stripmall as Subway).